On Monday, the 17th of February, Norway will be host to its first-ever award ceremony for the Michelin Guide. Make sure you follow @andershusa and @carnivorr on Instagram, as we will be in Trondheim to cover it live! The Nordic version of the French culinary Bible has been in circulation since 2014 and features 260 restaurants in Norway, Denmark, Sweden, Finland, Iceland, and the Faroe Islands. A total of 64 restaurants have one, two, or three stars, and most of them are in either Sweden or Denmark (which have 50 of them combined).
However, the Michelin Guide is not only about stars. In fact, most of the restaurants in the guide do not have a star at all – they are either just listed with a “Michelin Plate”, or they’re awarded the rarer “Bib Gourmand” which indicates a place with good value for money. Now, Michelin has even launched a new sustainability icon, the green clover, which was given out to restaurants with “commendable environmental practices.” Was this, perhaps, in part inspired by the 360 Eat Guide?
In this blog post, though, the focus will be on the stars. I’ll use my fine-tuned, precisely calibrated skills of high accuracy guesswork to reveal the results ahead of time. Just kidding, I’m really just spitballing.
Are you going to Trondheim for the Michelin launch? Use our city map to guide yourself to the best restaurants.
Predictions: Michelin Guide Nordic 2020
It’s become a tradition for me to make some predictions about the stars, and I’ve done so every year since 2017. My predictions are just my personal opinions combined with some industry knowledge. No one really knows what the Michelin Guide will do, but I’ve spoken with a lot of chefs and fellow food writers to gain some insight. As a result, at least I have some idea of which restaurants the Michelin inspectors have visited and how many times. And before you say: “But Michelin inspectors are anonymous!” Yes, they are, but sometimes they are not that difficult to spot. Did you receive a booking from a single diner from the UK with a strange e-mail address and a phone number you can’t reach? The alarm should be sounding if you’re a restaurant with Michelin star ambitions. Also, inspectors will usually identify themselves on the first visit after the meal and ask some questions. Update: I just received some intel that a growing number of inspectors in the Nordic now come from Asian countries.
While Michelin might not immediately award stars where they are deserved, my predictions tend to come true eventually. The mysterious guide definitely has some flaws. For example, I do not believe that they visit all restaurants each year – that’s just not a very viable business model. I also think that they strategically choose to slow down the process of awarding stars. By handing out only a few new stars each year, they save some headline news for the next launch, thus making sure the Michelin Guide always stays relevant. (I went into more detail about this in my 2018 predictions post, for those interested.) There are a number of reasons to be critical of Michelin, and I’ve explored that in more detail in my article: “The Michelin Guide Nordic Countries is Misleading.” Somehow, they still manage to keep the aura of mystery each year. A new tactic is to not invite winners to the award ceremony until days before, tormenting the poor chefs who are hoping that it’s their turn.
Will the Stars Rain on the Host Country of Norway?
One interesting question is if Trondheim hosting the awards will affect Norway’s chances of getting stars? The short answer is no. The host city is only paying for the honor to hold the ceremony to put a spotlight on their own food scene. Only one new Bib Gourmand was awarded in Aarhus, last year’s host city. That being said, Norway currently has only 40 restaurants listed in the guide, compared to 83 in Sweden and 99 in Denmark. There is no doubt in my mind that Norway has been less prioritized and less visited by Michelin inspectors in the past – there are too many good restaurants that have been left out of the guide. To be clear, I am not only talking about stars, although those numbers also speak volumes – only 8 establishments in Norway have a star, versus 22 in Sweden and 28 in Denmark. If you look at the Bib Gourmand ratings, the numbers are even worse. Norway has a single restaurant (one!) that has been deemed good value for money, compared to 14 each in both Sweden and Denmark.
Statistically speaking, Sweden should have a higher number of good restaurants since the population is 10 million compared to 5 million in both Norway and Denmark. The huge discrepancy between Norway and Denmark is harder to explain. A part of the answer may be the Noma effect. When René Redzepi founded the New Nordic cuisine, he attracted an army of international chefs to Denmark. While some came only to learn and then went back home again, many others decided to settle in Denmark and open their own restaurants. Great examples of this are Matt Orlando of Amass, Christian Puglisi of Relæ, and Kristian Baumann of 108. (So far, we’ve seen less of a Maaemo effect in Norway, but some exciting things are finally happening.) While I do not believe we will see a star shower on the host country, I have heard rumors of a lot of inspections in Norway. I hope and think that means we will be closing the gap a bit to our sweet neighbors in 2020! Update: The stars did indeed rain on Norway tonight, with two stars to Re-naa, and one star to Under, Speilsalen, Bare, and Omakase by Vladimir Pak!
Who Will Get Stars This Year?
First of all, I have few reasons to believe that anyone will lose a star this year, but the new international director of Michelin, Gwendal Poullennec, has shown that he is not afraid to demote old institutions. The iconic Restaurant Paul Bocuse in Lyon was demoted from three to two stars in the 2020 Michelin Guide in France, which sent shockwaves through the culinary community. Some argued, however, that this would never have been possible had it not been for the passing of Paul Bocuse in 2018.
In last year’s predictions, I correctly guessed that Fagn and Credo would get a star in Norway. My previous home turf (in case you missed it, we just moved to Copenhagen in Denmark) is still the market I know the best, and where I’ve eaten my way through the most restaurants. That will be reflected in my predictions. Without further ado, here are my opinions and guesses for the 2020 launch of the Michelin Guide Nordic.
Total listings: 40
Bib Gourmand: 1
Stars: 8 restaurants, 10 stars
Re-naa in Stavanger is the most obvious candidate in Norway for two stars, in my opinion. I’ve said that for some years, but our latest visit in December of 2019 really solidified the second star for me. After the big move to Eilert Smith Hotel, I saw a restaurant that had improved on every level – flavors, presentations, service, and ambiance. Chef Sven Erik Renaa’s new restaurant is a clear two-star, and if they don’t get it this year, it should come soon. But I think 2020 is the year!
Will restaurant À L’aise in Oslo finally get its well-deserved first star? This restaurant is such an obvious Michelin-star candidate that it’s hard to believe it hasn’t gotten one yet. When À L’aise didn’t get a star in 2018, it was somewhat understandable, as one could argue that they had been open less than a year. However, when the inspectors decided not to even visit them in 2019, it almost felt like a statement from the new director that old-school fine dining is less desired now, or, at least that it’s less likely to impress the inspectors. If that is true, they might snub Chef Ulrik Jepsen for the star again, but I hope they don’t. Update: No stars for À L’aise this year either, by the looks of it.
Rest in Oslo is my second bet for one star in Norway. If I was in charge of the Michelin Guide, they would get one. The young team, spearheaded by Chef Jimmy Øien, is not only impressing with their approach to sustainability and zero waste, but also with flavors, ingredient innovation, and presentations. A solid one star! Update: The Michelin inspectors do not seem to share my view.
Under, the world’s largest underwater restaurant, might get a star this year. I’ve heard rumors of multiple inspections, and even that the editor of the Michelin Guide, Rebecca Burr, has visited. When we visited Under in May, however, we found that the menu still needed some work. Some dishes were just not delicious enough. To make matters worse, we actually left the restaurant hungry after 17 courses, and there was really nowhere we could go afterward for a late-night snack in rural Båly, so we ended up getting a bag of peanuts from our hotel. One of the problems was that the menu had almost no carbs – a refillable bread serving of some sort would have gone a long way. In my opinion, the team could need another year to calibrate everything, but maybe the Michelin Guide has had different experiences throughout 2019? Or maybe they’ve just been swayed by the striking architecture and beauty of this place? Update: Based on my latest intel, it looks like Under is definitely getting one star this year.
Speilsalen was on the right path to receive a star when I visited in May last year, but the restaurant still felt somewhat unpolished. The team was just not in sync, and that affected the experience for me as a guest. Can they still join their “colleagues” Fagn and Credo in the one-star category? It’s not impossible, but my guess is not yet. Speaking of Credo, I’ve heard people say it should have two stars. From my experience, visiting in 2018, it wasn’t more than a one-star, but they could have evolved since then. In either case, I think it will take a few more years for the Michelin Guide to admit Credo into the two-star family. Update: It seems likely that Speilsalen will get a star this year.
Bare is the best restaurant in Bergen, no doubt, but the city seems to have been almost completely off the radar for the inspectors. This year, rumor has it that they’ve had two visits, though. Could there have been a third one that they missed? Let’s hope so, because, according to what I’ve heard, a minimum of three visits are needed to get the first star. Update: It seems likely that Bare will get a star this year.
Total listings: 99
Bib Gourmand: 14
Total stars: 28 restaurants, 35 stars
Alchemist should enter the guide with two stars this year. In the Nordic countries, this has only happened to Maaemo and Fäviken previously, but I think it will be difficult for the Michelin Guide not to acknowledge that the brainchild of Rasmus Munk is worth more than one star.
O Noma, where art though? After 17 years in operation, after being named the world’s best restaurant four times, after moving to Refshaleøen and reinventing itself, launching a unique concept of the three distinct seasons, the Michelin Guide still decided not to give Noma its third star in 2019. Will they get it this year? Does anyone care? The point is that it doesn’t matter anymore. Nothing has changed from last year. Noma is still the most influential restaurant in the world. Everything from the food, the service, and the innovation is world-class. The lack of the third star is only embarrassing for the Michelin Guide.
Brace, the Italian-Nordic fine dining restaurant by Chef Nicola Fanetti could certainly be next in line for one star in Copenhagen. Have the inspectors been there enough, though? I don’t think so. My Danish colleague Rasmus Palsgård also predicts a second star to Jordnær in Gentofte. In my experience, it was a solid one star in May last year, but I wouldn’t personally bet on two stars yet.
Danish restaurants that are categorically snubbed for their first star every year are Amass and Mielcke & Hurtigkarl, while Søllerød Kro never manages to get the second one. On the other hand, Studio at the Standard might potentially lose its star after having lost yet another head chef. Time will tell.
Total listings: 86
Bib Gourmand: 14
Total stars: 22 restaurants, 29 stars
Could there be a third star in stock for Daniel Berlin in Skåne? It’s probably too early, but I have a feeling it will come within a few years. Besides that, I don’t really have much to say about the Swedish restaurant scene, except that Adam/Albin and Etoile might be one-star candidates. When Aloë closed in December of 2018, they announced that they would re-open with an ambition of three stars. They are back in business, but I have not been back since 2017, so I can’t tell if they are even close to two stars yet. However, none of my sources are reporting anything exciting about the Älvsjö restaurant.
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What do you think? Who will get stars this year? Please leave a comment below.